Student Journalists Get a Taste of the Final Four in Indianapolis

Posted: April 5, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nicholas Zinzer

Matt Eppers and Leigh Ann Franco were excited but exhausted last Thursday morning as the two were preparing to take Metro to Reagan National Airport and fly to Indianapolis to attend the Mason men’s Final Four basketball game.

Eppers, a junior majoring in communication who is the sports editor at Mason’s student newspaper, Broadside, celebrated his 22nd birthday the night before his scheduled flight and did not get much sleep. Franco, a junior majoring in art and visual technology who is the photo editor at Broadside, managed three hours of sleep the night before her scheduled flight.

So it came as an unpleasant surprise when a crack in Metro’s Orange line track prevented the two from taking a Metro to catch their 10:30 a.m. flight.

Eppers and Franco, along with other Broadside staffers, quickly hailed a cab and made their way to the airport. “We were a little worried that we wouldn’t make it to the airport in time,” says Eppers. “However, our cab driver took a few liberties with the speed limit, and we made it without any problems.”

Despite restlessness from lack of sleep, the Metro delays and a brief layover in Cleveland, the two eventually made it to Indianapolis. After spending five days in Indiana’s capital, the two came away with different experiences from their trip.

“The most memorable part of the trip was seeing the Patriots take the court Saturday night,” says Eppers. “The team emerged from the locker room, led by Gunston and the cheerleaders, to enormous cheers from the Mason fans. You could feel the electricity in the arena.”

For Franco, the most memorable part of the experience came from seeing George Mason students around town supporting the team. “Everywhere you looked, you could see [fans] with green and gold [attire],” says Franco.

Both journalists found it difficult to separate their role as a Mason student from their position as an editor of a newspaper. “Despite being a student, I am still a journalist, [and] the Final Four is a huge event,” says Eppers. “I may not show it on the outside, but on the inside, my heart and stomach sway with each basket.”

Franco was courtside for the game, and being so close to the action, it was difficult to fulfill her role as an unbiased photographer. “As a photographer, I’m supposed to stay neutral throughout the game, but I found myself chanting under my breath with the fans as I looked through my lens.”

Franco’s role as photo editor was to shadow other Broadside staff members and take photographs. Franco shadowed both Eppers and Anna Washington, the Broadside news editor. According to Franco, the stadium was relatively accessible in her role as a photojournalist. “I went to the media room, locker room, courtside…and the sides of the stadium to get fan shots.”

Eppers, who hopes to land a job as a sports writer, was exposed to well-known writers from a variety of prominent media organizations.

In his capacity as sports editor, Eppers has been interviewed by ESPN,, WJLA-TV and three sports talk radio shows in three different states. “It’s certainly been strange,” says Eppers. “I am usually the one to ask the questions. Being on the other side of the interview is obviously different, but it’s been fun.”

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